The outrageous St Petersburg duo talk art, activism and arousal
Andy Hill
12:50 14th June 2018

Forget everything you know about cabaret – the shit jokes, the knackered costumes, the cringeworthy cover songs. SADO OPERA are smoking hot, sharp-witted and bristling with wicked original tunes.

Originally hailing from St Petersburg in Russia, The Colonel and Magic Doll (they have real names, but who cares) are currently based in Berlin where their twice-weekly residency at the reliably batshit Wilde Renates club keeps local punters, fans and tourists shocked, appalled and (most of all) delighted.

Gigwise caught up with the pair ahead of their European tour.

Gigwise: I love the alternative world you’ve created – even naming your home ‘SADO Palace’. What goes down at SADO Palace?

Magic Doll: It’s not 5 o’clock yet, is it?

Colonel: We do rehearsals, naked. Not even making sex, we are concentrating on the work. Being naked helps concentrate. We love to make sex with each other, and our brothers and sisters. But when we do music, we concentrate on our art.

Magic Doll: Music is better than sex.

Colonel: No it isn’t.

GW: You write amazingly good original songs for a cabaret act. Where do you get inspiration from?

Colonel: We share what is in our hearts and mind. We are prophets of a love religion.

Magic Doll: Our fans. We are close with lots of them. We share personal stuff, and they tell us their stories. It’s no secret that, because of our culture, it’s tough to be accepted if you are different.

Colonel: It’s not only about gender though. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. We mean it. It doesn’t matter. Whoever you are, young or old, we can fall in love with you.

GW: Did you leave Russia and move to Berlin because Germany is more suitable for your act?

Colonel: I love Russia. We are visiting there in two weeks. When we started our act in St Petersburg it was to unite similar, free-minded people. To show they aren’t alone. And yes, there were some scary and disgusting reactions.

Magic Doll: The homophobic mood is in people’s minds there. The government support that mentality, and is not giving the people correct information

Colonel: They aren’t just anti-gay, they’re anti humanist. It’s the police, partly, and also who we call the ‘disinformed people’ that aren’t privileged to have a good education, and who spread hate toward those like us. We only want to spread love.

GW: You’re known for your activism, supporting LGBT causes in Russia and Egypt. How do you incorporate that into what you do?

Magic Doll: We organise benefit parties. It started with the Russian LGBT Network, which supports gay or queer people with legal advice, or money to help them relocate. There are issues that get attention, such as the horrendous treatment of gay people in Chechnya, and things that get less attention, like in the Arab world.

Colonel: That’s part of why we left Russia – to be here, in the middle of the world, where we can be more effective and productive.

Magic Doll: We support what we can. Wilde Renate, our residency, let us invite acts from home for the big birthday or NYE nights. They come and party for three days non-stop, and get to meet queer colleagues and make friends

Colonel. We consider that a very important thing. When we were back in Russia we dreamed about possibilities like that. Now we are in a position to help others.

GW: You played The Great Escape in Brighton not long ago. How was that?

Colonel: It was our first time in the UK. We’d seen it in movies, of course. It was fantastic, but strange. During a daytime industry showcase I punched a hole in a hotel ceiling, by accident. Performing for industry people is like going to bed with a very experienced lover. “Ok, I’m naked,” they seem to say “Show me what you can do”.

GW: I love your hat, by the way

Colonel: Thanks. It’s a Russian Navy officer hat.

Magic Doll: It’s mocking the brutal, militaristic, patriarchal structures.

Colonel: I chose white over black because it is more beautiful.

GW: And your sunglasses

Magic Doll: I’ve started a collection. I want to be like Elton John

GW: So when fans listen to your music, are they basically inhabiting in the SADO palace with you?

Colonel: No

Magic Doll: They need to see us. They can only truly be with us live, or by listening, and scrolling though our Instagram

Colonel: And masturbating.

22 – Moscow, Simachev
23 – St. Petersburg, Kuznya House
25 – Helsinki, Helsinki Pride
07 – Amsterdam, Georgie’s
13 – Budapest, Bandito Festival
04 – Hamburg, Vogelball
09 – Vilnius, And Bangos
28 – Basel, Luststreifen Queen Film Festival
06 – Vilnius, Opium Club
13 – Zürich, Lila Queer Festival

Photo: Press